John Eckhardt: Palaeodubfolk 

Eckhardt scrapes and hoots on instruments he can't properly play in order to examine how the musician's body relates to the non-human world


I’ve long admired the work of this protean bassist/composer, since hearing him some years ago at Ostrava Music Days. He has a remarkable range across genres, covering bases from contemporary composition to funk, but John Eckhardt is profoundly original in all he does. He sees the most unlikely connections between genres.

This latest release is part of Eckhardt’s ecological agenda, which originated with Xylobiont (2008). The accompanying photographic project includes a selection of 14 postcards of the Swedish landscape. The MC boxed set also contains – so I gather, as I’m listening on downloads – a bluish piece of Swedish slag.

Eckhardt plays a collection of instruments that coincidentally came to him. These include his grandmother’s 19th-century square piano, a detuned Norwegian folk music zither bought at a local yard sale, a harmonium found in a deserted congregational house in the forest, a Zimbabwean mbira, and his late mother’s alto recorder. As he explains by email, “A crucial point of this project is that I did not buy or even want these instruments, and I don’t know how to ‘properly play’ them…”

Among the gems that Eckhardt’s unusual “audio-manual strategies” inspire is Mbira Bow, a characteristically deep and acute investigation of the nature of sound and music. Harpeleik Pulse, unusually for this album of soundart-influenced music, creates a compelling groove. As Eckhardt comments, “Why should I have hopes that it could be particularly interesting for listeners to listen to me scrape, hoot and fiddle along on instruments I am unfamiliar with? The answer is on that record, and also in the photography, the texts and in the stone.”

“An important clue to this work is the many questions I ask about the musician’s body, and its relation to the non-human world (here: instruments)”, he adds. He doesn’t claim to know the answers, but has strong feelings about where to look – and where not to look – for solutions. Many of them are expressed in Palaeodubfolk, and readers are strongly urged to examine this remarkable album. It may take a few listens to get into. But for those prepared to make the effort, Palaeodubfolk is richly rewarding.

Taffel Prolog; Taffel Cloud; Mbira Bow; Harpeleik Pulse; Harpeleik Kraut; Mbira Ants; Flute Trio; Flute Solo; Harmonium Chord; Harmonium Song; Harmonium Patterns; Taffel Epilog (66.06)
Eckhardt (taffel, tramp org, mbira, alto recorder, harpeleik). Staksund, Sweden, 2021.
Depth Of Field Music